When looking for racing games on the Switch, you’re really limited to a handful of mostly mascot dominated titles. And while I’m a a huge fan of Mario Kart and the vastly superior Crash Team Racing, there really isn’t much that features real cars driving on roads today. While I won't say Asphalt 9: Legends is a sim racer like Forza or Project Cars, it definitely scratches that itch I get when I want to drive a WRX at 190 mph.
For those familiar with the series, Asphalt 9: Legends is one of the biggest racing games on mobile platforms today. It’s a bit closer to Burnout than Gran Turismo but still features a robust set of tracks, licensed cars, and upgrades that make the game more in-depth than some other racers you would find on modern mobile devices.
When I was asked to check out their current game on the Switch, I was skeptical. Mobile Fremium turned Switch ports aren’t a new thing for Nintendo's hardware, and while some games are better than others, my expectations are usually low. Asphalt 9: Legends is thankfully much more than a simple port to new hardware.
What’s always set the Asphalt series apart from other arcade racers on mobile is how the game is controlled. On mobile you can currently race with swipe, touch, Gyro, or traditional controls with the help of external devices. Since the Switch has actual controls and HD rumble, the game feels much more intuitive as you boost and blast through obstacles (and other cars) on your way to the finish line. I was able to demo the controls in a few ways on the Switch and surprisingly I felt the most comfortable with a single detached joycon in split screen.
The biggest improvement and feature to the Switch port is the inclusion of local multiplayer. Asphalt 9: Legends has always featured a relatively robust online multiplayer mode, but due to obvious hardware limitations, the game has always lacked split screen multiplayer. I had the chance to play against one of the devs at E3 and I have to admit that it made the game even more fun, and this is about as close as well get to a multiplayer Burnout game on modern consoles anytime soon. The game felt natural in splitscreen and due to Asphalt always having to rely on minimalist controls, the experience translated exceptionally well to a single joycon.
Asphalt 9: Legends is a complete package. The game will feature on and offline multiplayer (no Nintendo online account needed) as well as the introduction of “Club Races,” which is an inclusion to the game's clan-like club mode. It will also feature the same car customization options you would find in the current version of the game, which includes options to change the colors of everything down to the brake calipers. For those who want to play by themselves, there is also a complete single player campaign that features over 800 events throughout its 70 tracks based off real world locations.
Visually the game is on par with its mobile port and runs at a rock sold 60fps, which if you’ve played Asphalt 9: Legends, you’ll know that this game is pretty easy to look at. Between its visual fidelity and the premium presentation of the game as a whole (Licensed music, animated menus, etc), it's hard to believe that this free title isn’t being sold as a AAA game.
I've also been assured by the developers that the game will launch at almost full parity with the mobile version only to catch up completely with its mobile counterpart shortly after launch because “we needed to make sure the game released right and played well." This is a refreshing assurance from a developer since most mobile to switch ports tend to lack features on their original platform.
Monetization is the same from the mobile version, and while there are loot box style card packs and a hard currency, it's pretty fair with free players and I've personally got a ton of hours out of this game with minimal (because I wanted to buy something specific) spending. To put it bluntly, this is one of the more fair free to play games out there at the moment.
With its blazing fast Burnout gameplay, as well as its relatively deep customization and multiplayer options, Asphalt 9: Legends is shaping up to be one of the best arcade racers on the Switch. And at the low price of free, it’s definitely worth checking out the only game that lets me crash a BMW M4 through a skyscraper at 180mph.
Asphalt 9: Legends is expected to launch on the Nintendo Switch sometime in the Fall of 2019. Since the game is free to play, you will not need a Nintendo Switch Online account to access all the game's multiplayer features, but the game will feature optional micro transactions and a hard currency.
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